Thursday, April 8, 2010

Beach Rental Cooking: Hilton Head Island

Just back from the beach, and boy do I have the vacation blues. I spent the past week on Hilton Head Island, and six days never went so fast. Despite it being early in the season, my visit coincided with spring break. And while the wide, sandy beaches provided plenty of space for everyone, sadly, the local restaurants did not. It seemed like hour-long waits for a table and overtaxed kitchens were the rule rather than the exception. A local pizza joint stopped answering its phone (walk-in orders welcome, 90 minute wait for a pie). So we ended up doing a lot of cooking. And discovered that while Hilton Head has a huge assortment of grocery stores (I hit the Fresh Market, Piggly Wiggly and Harris Teeter during my stay), there are really few produce stands. Maybe it was the season, but I only spotted one -- just off island before the bridge. Calling it a "stand" may be slightly generous (series of tables in a dusty parking lot?) but I gamely stopped and spent about $9 on tomatoes, red skin potatoes, green and yellow squash and a bunch of Vidalia onions (based on the conditions, I suggest skipping the "fresh local jumbo shrimp"). The challenge of beach rental cooking is to make the most of what you have, including limited ingredients and sub-standard kitchen equipment (e.g., dull knives). Since we had already purchased such staples as eggs, celery, mayo, baby spinach, feta, bow tie pasta and bruschetta topping, it was easy to turn the potatoes into potato salad, to toss roasted squash and onion with pasta, and to serve sliced tomato in sandwiches or with baked eggs.
Cooking while on vacation may not be everyone's first choice, but when you focus on simple, easy dishes, it's a heck of a lot better than fighting hunger pangs or loud patrons at the local tourist traps!
Beach Vacation Baked Eggs
If you're making breakfast for a crowd, or if your rental doesn't have large ramekins, you can also bake these in a metal muffin tin. Just reduce the quantity of ingredients slightly (don't overfill the tins) and cooking time (15 minutes or until set) accordingly.
Ingredients (for a single serving)
Cooking spray or olive oil
2 Slices of tomato
.25 C. Baby spinach leaves
1 Egg, lightly beaten
1 T. Crumbled feta
Preheat oven to 400.
Lightly grease a large ramekin or muffin tin.
Layer tomato on bottom of ramekin or tin; top with baby spinach, beaten egg and feta crumbles.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until egg has set.

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